Evidence that the Democratic National Committee rigged the 2016 presidential primary in favor of Hillary Clinton has been known for well over a year. But the leadership of the Democratic Party has refused to address evidence, preferring to “move forward” by coercing Democrats who supported Bernie Sanders into uniting with the very elements of the party responsible for losing to President Donald Trump.
Now, former interim DNC chair Donna Brazile has given credence to claims that the DNC rigged the primary, which is what members of the Sanders campaign and supporters have repeatedly asserted—even though most DNC officials or Clinton supporters treat such claims as the product of sexism or downright foolishness.
Brazile found a copy of the joint fundraising agreement between the DNC, Hillary Victory Fund, and Hillary For America. It was signed by former CEO of the DNC Amy Dacey and Robby Mook, who was Clinton’s campaign manager. The Clinton campaign’s legal counsel, Marc Elias, was copied.
It specified that Clinton would “control the party’s finances, strategy, and all the money raised. Her campaign had the right of refusal of who would be the party communications director, and it would make final decisions on all the other staff. The DNC also was required to consult with the campaign about all other staffing, budgeting, data, analytics, and mailings.”
The agreement was inked in August 2015, which was months before the first votes were ever cast in the primary.
As Brazile put it, “The funding arrangement with HFA and the victory fund agreement was not illegal, but it sure looked unethical. If the fight had been fair, one campaign would not have control of the party before the voters had decided which one they wanted to lead. This was not a criminal act, but as I saw it, it compromised the party’s integrity.”
A story from Politico in May 2016 revealed how the Clinton campaign setup a fundraising operation through state party apparatuses that was essentially money laundering. States only kept less than a half percent of $82 million raised. This was a method to circumvent campaign finance limits. It also put Sanders at a disadvantage, as the state parties weren’t fairly making these funds available to his campaign.
DNC chair Tom Perez appeared on CNBC and was asked about what Brazile wrote. “Well, hey, we’re moving forward. We’re building, you know, I’ve been asked that question a number of times since I started.”
Perez suggested he would ensure plans for the nomination process in 2020 were fair and transparent. The primary debate schedule would be set in advance before any officially declared candidates are known. But what if DNC officials already have a candidate for 2020 in mind, like they did with Clinton?
In October, as widely reported, Perez “stripped a number of longtime party officials of their ‘at-large’ delegate status or leadership positions, while appointing a slate of 75 new members that include[d] Clinton campaign veterans, lobbyists, and neophytes.” Many of those demoted were progressives who backed Sanders or Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison when he ran against Perez for DNC chair.
Some of the people tied to corporate interests, who were granted superdelegate votes, included Joanne Dowdell, who was a registered lobbyist for News Corp (which owns Fox News) and Manuel Ortiz, a lobbyist for CITGO Petroleum Corporation and Citigroup. And ten other newly appointed superdelegates had previously registered as federal lobbyists.
Indiana Democratic Representative Andre Carson also was on CNN and asked what he thought of Brazile’s allegations. Initially, Carson refused to address them and said he knew Brazile and would probably read her forthcoming book. Wolf Blitzer pressed him, and Carson deflected. He maintained he had no knowledge of any fundraising deal between the Clinton campaign and DNC.
“If what Donna Brazile is saying in this new book is true, I assume you’d be pretty upset that there was this formal arrangement to use the DNC, the assets of DNC, which are considerable, to help this one presidential candidate and in the process hurt others who may want to challenge her for the nomination,” Blitzer added.
It did not visibly bother Carson at all. Addressing Clinton and Sanders supporters, Carson answered, “Going forward, we need to come together. Though we may have our differences and different approaches in terms of methodology. We have to come together and use our numbers to make sure we don’t re-elect Donald Trump or see another Donald Trump rise.”
This strategy for unity, which involves forcing conformity among Sanders supporters, failed at the Democratic National Convention, and it failed to ensure Clinton had the turnout among working class people of color and young people that was necessary to defeat Trump, especially in swing states. It has, however, helped officials obstruct accountability, transparency, or any transformation away from the very centrist agenda that has ensured the party remains weak.
One of the few Democrats to recognize reality was Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren. She appeared on CNN and emphatically answered, “Yes,” when asked if she thought the DNC rigged the primary. She said the Democratic Party needed to be “held accountable.”
Warren was hounded throughout the 2016 Democratic primary by Sanders supporters for remaining silent about who she supported. Her silence was regarded as a favor to the Clinton campaign that was intended to help the campaign ensure the scales did not tip against them in key New England states.
What Warren said flustered several Democrats, including Joy Ann Reid, a Democrat and MSNBC host with quite the following on Twitter.
Reid contended, “The question is: what does the DNC actually do, and can it, even if it wanted to, rig 50+ primaries for any given candidate?” She added, “Even if one objects to the [joint fundraising agreement], as Donna did, it didn’t hurt Sanders financially. By April, he’d raised as much as [Clinton].” She insisted Clinton won the nomination because she received more votes than Sanders.
However, what those in denial refuse to confront is that Clinton may have received more votes because citizens believed it was impossible for Sanders to win, since the news media kept reporting Clinton had so many more superdelegates than him. Plus, whether Sanders was able to overcome the impact of an unethical fundraising agreement does not change the reality that it made the primary unfair.
Hillary Rosen, a prominent Democratic Party strategist who regularly appears on CNN, insisted Democrats could not reckon with Brazile’s allegations when attention must be paid to the GOP’s tax proposals. She also misleadingly argued Brazile could not find any evidence that the system was rigged against Sanders, which is not what Brazile wrote. Brazile said she could not find any evidence to support widespread claims until she came across the joint fundraising agreement.
“The voters chose Hillary Clinton, not Bernie Sanders, and it had nothing to do with any staff person at the DNC,” Rosen asserted.
In May 2016, Rosen said, “Bernie Sanders is losing this race, and instead of taking it like a man, he’s working the ref. He’s encouraging his people to think that the system is rigged. The system he signed up for as an independent to run in a Democratic primary. This constant sort of whining and complaining about the process is just really the most harmful thing, in some ways, he could do because he’s encouraging his supporters to think that the process actually is cheating them, and they’re not.” So, Rosen has an interest in maintaining her denial of reality.
The reality is hundreds of superdelegates pledged their allegiance to Clinton before votes were cast in Iowa, a limited number of debates were scheduled to ensure voters had the least amount of exposure to Clinton opponents, the DNC and Clinton campaign falsely accused the Sanders campaign of “stealing” voter file data, and Democratic women supporting Sanders faced forms of retaliation for not supporting Clinton.